Ezell’s Fish Camp is a journey through time, with silent puppies


Ezell’s Fish Camp would be easy to miss if you’re not careful. On Alabama Highway 10, once you cross the Nanafalia Bridge over the Tombigbee River from Marengo County to Choctaw County, you take the first road on the right, which makes a bend and takes you along the river to ‘to a parking lot. Ezell is the rambling structure with the tin roof.

You’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but you’ve arrived at a wonderful place where the location, historic building, and friendly waiters make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Mary Ann Ezell Hall is in one of the two original rooms that once made up the dogtrot hut where she lived until the age of five. With rough log walls and a blazing fire in the fireplace even though it’s 64 degrees outside, the cozy dining room is her favorite spot. “I love it,” she said.

The hut was used as a trading post during the Civil War before Mary Ann’s grandfather Charles Agnew Ezell bought it and took a ferry across the river days before a bridge was built. His son, CA Ezell, lived in the cabin and worked as a commercial fisherman on the river. Soon his family outgrown the cabin, but CA continued to operate it as a hunting and fishing club.

The place was known for backyard fish fries, where catfish and hush puppies sold for 50 cents a plate. In the 1930s, it turned into a restaurant. Mary Ann took over Ezell’s Fish Camp from her father almost 40 years ago. Today, his son Agnew helps him manage it.

Over the years, Ezell’s got bigger – the back porch was closed, two party rooms were added (the poplar and the cypress, named after the paneling) and a patio was built – but didn’t have much. exchange. Customers “expect to see the same deer heads or the same images,” says Mary Ann. “We are not moving. If you do, you’re in trouble.

They don’t change the menu often either. Customers expect fresh fried catfish fillets, crispy, melt-in-the-mouth puppies, and a crunchy, sweet coleslaw, accompanied by tall glasses of tea. Other popular dishes include fried dill pickles, shrimp and oysters, rib eye steaks, and burgers served with homemade fries.

While Mary Ann ran the first Ezell’s Fish Camp, her brothers Charles and Joe opened several Ezell’s Catfish Cabin restaurants in other states. Today, Catfish Cabin locations remain in Memphis, Tenn., Monroe, Louisiana, Columbus, Ga., And Phenix City, Ala.

Lavaca’s original restaurant can seat 300 people, making it a popular spot for post-rehearsal dinners, family reunions, and other special occasions. “It’s pretty much a destination,” says Mary Ann.

During the hunting season, she says, there is “a sea of ​​camouflage” in the dining rooms. Bikers love it too – on New Years Day, she says, some 400 bikers gathered there from across the state for black-eyed peas and green vegetables.

Due to its proximity to the river, flooding has closed the restaurant several times. A dike has avoided this problem. “The building, for me, is worth saving because you cannot replace it,” she said.

You also can’t replace Mary Perry, who has served there for 47 years. “People come in the door looking for Miss Mary,” says Mary Ann.

She will be 85 this year, but Miss Mary says she would much rather work in a restaurant than stay home and do nothing. “You never know who is going to come each day,” she said. “There is always something different.

She is now expecting the fourth and fifth generations of some families. “It’s so important to talk to people, to remember children and grandchildren, to talk about illnesses and births in the family,” says Miss Mary. “It really and truly is a family restaurant.”

Ezell’s Fish Camp is located at 776 Ezell Road in Lavaca, Ala. The phone number is (205) 654-2205. Ezell’s is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Hours are Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.


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